One of the lesser known of the sporting group is the Flat Coated Retriever. This dog is one of the breeds developed in the United Kingdom specifically as a water retriever, but that also excelled at retrieving on land, flushing birds and small game and even basic tracking. Originally used in the United Kingdom as a general hunting and gamekeeper type of dog, it quickly made the transition to family pet although they continued to develop their strong working instincts.
Many people that first see the Flat Coated Retriever assume that they are seeing a hybrid dog typically including a Setter and a Lab cross. While the breed has some attributes of both types, it is definitely a breed of its own. The earliest ancestors and founders of the Flat Coated Retriever lines included the now extinct St. John's Water Dog, which is also the original stock of the Labrador and Newfoundland breeds. The St. John's Water Dog was brought back to England with ships returning from Canada and then these dogs were crossed with what was eventually to become the Irish Setter or Irish Red and White Setter breeds. Some breeders also believe that various Collie lines where included in the original breeding stock to provide a very calm, stable and devoted type of dog that could work independent but still in response to the handler or hunter.
By the early 1880's the Flat Coated Retriever was a very popular hunting dog in the United Kingdom and was brought back over to North America and the United States. Their wonderful temperament and excellent versatile hunting abilities made the Flat Coated Retriever an extremely popular dog in the United States and Canada. Officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1915, the popularity of the Flat Coated Retriever stayed mostly with hunters and people in rural areas as this was and is a relatively high energy larger sized sporting dog. With the massive decrease in the demand for hunting dogs as well as the devastation in much of Europe, the Flat Coated Retriever almost became extinct during the War years. After World War ll groups of very dedicated breeders managed to salvage breeding stock and carefully start to rebuild the number of Flat Coated Retriever both in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom. Today the Flat Coated Retriever is the 96th most popular breed of the 156 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. Their popularity continues to be with hunters and more rural families, however they are also becoming more popular as a companion pet for urban families.
The Flat Coated Retriever is a moderately large dog measuring about 22 inches at the withers and weighing up to 80 pounds with males typically taller and heavier than females. They have the traditional retriever head with a wider head and muzzle, slight stop and very streamlined look. Unlike some of the hunting dogs the head should be flowing in profile, not chiseled but rather more molded in appearance. The muzzle is slightly longer than most retrievers but still very much in balance with the rest of the head and body. The lips are slightly loose but not pendant and the eyes are hazel to very dark, alert and lively looking. The ears are moderate to small in size, turned over and positioned flat against the head. The neck is moderately long and strong, flowing into a deep chest, well sprung ribs and a straight or flat topline. The dog does give the appearance of an animal ready to spring into action and typically in a well socialized and trained Flat Coated Retriever the beautiful fringed tail will be constantly wagging, but it carried down closer to the hocks when the dog is not in movement.
The coat of the Flat Coated Retriever is not really flat, rather it is close to the body but has significant fringing or feathering along the legs, belly and the tail. The chest and the feet are also covered in longer hair that may be slightly wavy in appearance but never curly or bushy. The coat is lustrous with a deep natural shine and is a thick single coat rather than a double coat. They do shed an average amount year round but don't have the heavy seasonal shed of some breeds. Generally all that is required is twice a week brushing with a pin brush to clear any tangles on the feathering and the body. Bathing should be very minimal to prevent damaging and drying of the coat. The colors that are acceptable for the Flat Coated Retriever are liver, which is a solid dark reddish chocolate brown color, or solid black. There are no white markings permitted on these dogs, nor are cream, yellow or light colored or diluted colors of liver or black acceptable for show events.
Pet Flat Coated Retrievers are really a joy to have in the household as they are relatively low energy indoors but always up for a walk, jog or playtime. They are not ideally suited for small spaces because they do tend to become rather hyperactive and exuberant without a few hours outside each day. The best option is a large fenced yard where this moderately independent dog can roam and explore, then a loving and active family to spend with when people are home. Outstanding with children of all ages, younger Flat Coated Retriever may need to be taught not to get too boisterous around younger children. As a whole a well trained and socialized Flat Coated Retriever is a very friendly, energetic and playful breed with some being good watchdogs while others just too friendly for this task.
A great companion with other dogs and pets, the Flat Coated Retriever is not typically dog aggressive, highly territorial or even possessive. When raised with cats they are extremely accepting of their feline companions and are often very playful with cats. As a whole the breed is very adaptable to new animals, people and things in their environment and tends to take everything in stride and make the necessary adjustments.
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